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Mauresmo Makes Statement In Reaching Third Round Of Open

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Mauresmo Makes Statement In Reaching Third Round Of Open

Photo By Cynthia Lum By Richard Pagliaro

Like a severe sunburn case of sunburn she can't quite shake, questions have clung to Amelie Mauresmo ever since she gained global attention for advancing to the 1999 Australian Open final.

The questions — whether a brittle body prone to chronic injuries in recent years can withstand the rigors of a two-week tournament, whether Mauresmo has the mental toughness to play with pain under pressure and whether she really owns the strength to snap a streak of 14 straight Slams without reaching a final — have become commonplace and today Mauresmo’s answers were elusive.

Shortly after Mauresmo moved into the third round of the U.S. Open with a 6-2, 6-2 flogging of fellow French woman Stephanie Cohen-Aloro, she sat in interview room one in Arthur Ashe Stadium contemplating questions and looking relaxed in her surroundings. But the soft-spoken Mauresmo’s habit of shifting back in her seat away from the microphone planted in front of her face allowed some of her words to float away unheard and unknown. The moment was symbolic of Mauresmo’s mystique as a player: for all the ease she exudes on court there always appears to be that missing element that prevents her from fully articulating her authority in a major.

The 24-year-old Mauresmo may appear a bit meek behind the mike, but her commanding performance today served as a reminder she’s capable of making a Slam statement on the court. In her two tournament wins, she’s surrendered only six games and is pleased with her play as she approaches the third round.

"I’m starting to hit the ball very well," Mauresmo said. "I think in today’s match (it) was very good also. I had some very good points."

The 2002 semifinalist has suffered from an assortment of aches, ailments and injuries that have sidelined her for nearly six months this season. She underwent knee surgery last fall and sat out the first four months of the 2003 season with right knee cartilage inflammation, but made an immediate impression upon her return as she reached the Paris Indoors final, falling to Serena Williams. In the months that followed, Mauresmo has retired from matches and withdrawn from events with a wide-range of illness and injury including a left abductor strain, a right abductor strain, an acute throat infection, a right rib cage injury and food poisoning. Mauresmo’s maladies have been so expansive you begin to wonder if she’d be better equipped carrying a first-aid kit rather than a racquet bag onto the court.

Asked to assess her current state of health, Mauresmo said she feels fine and is regaining her competitive conditioning.

"I’m feeling more and more competitive out there," Mauresmo said. "No problems with the back, so far so good… If I start thinking like when I’m going onto the court that I might get injured, you can’t play like this. I just do my best out on the court to stay healthy."

A fit and focused Mauresmo can create an unsettling feeling in opponents who recognize her all-court ability make her a threat from virtually any position on the court. Her inability to stay healthy has limited Mauresmo’s summer season. She skipped Wimbledon with the rib injury and played only a pair of North American hard court events — advancing to the quarterfinals in Toronto and the semis in New Haven — in preparation for the Open. The lack of match play doesn’t disturb Mauresmo.

"You don’t have the secret, the magic key," Mauresmo said. "Sometimes you play well before a Grand Slam and then not too good during that Grand Slam. Some other times, you don’t play too much before, then you have energy, you have motivation, so you’re out there really wanting to do well."

A dream draw that pits Mauresmo against 170th-ranked Russian qualifier Maria Kirilenko for a spot in the fourth round should enable her to reach her third consecutive U.S. Open quarterfinal where she could face top-seeded Kim Clijsters.

As one of the few players to have beaten both Venus Williams and Serena Williams this year, Mauresmo has a legitimate chance to raise the U.S. Open title trophy that has taken up residence in the Williams’ sisters home for the past four years. Listening to the thoughtful Mauresmo speak, you sometimes get the feeling she’s eager to find answers some of the questions that have followed her throughout her career during this Flushing fortnight.

"I just feel like I want to give my best, try to be a hundred percent on the court," Mauresmo said. "We’ll see how it goes…I feel like it’s coming. I think I still have a few things in my game to adjust. I can do better, but I honestly think, yeah, it’s coming."
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Thanks for the article tennisIlove09! :D
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